I’m from Sheffield. I first came to Barcelona in 1991. I was 13 years old and did a two-week exchange programme. It was quite the experience as the exchange partners were a few years older, so we were exposed to the crazy and late Spanish night life at probably a too-young age.
This was the year before the Olympics, so the city was a completely different place. Some things didn’t exist, like the Rambla de Raval, the beaches, but also the reputations of places were not as they are now. Plaça Reial for example was a very dangerous place to hang out.
I frequented Barcelona pretty much every year after that. It became my second home and I picked up the languages over the years. By the time I started university in Cardiff, I was pretty fluent in Catalan and Spanish. I did an Erasmus year in both Barcelona and Brazil.
Now, I’m an official tourist guide accredited by the Catalan government. I am probably one of the only native English speaking guides. Getting this licence was not easy, and I had to wait a few years in order to take the exam due to paperwork formalities and delays.
For some reason they make the exam almost impossible to pass. It’s a multiple choice exam, but one of those horrendous ones that if you answer a question wrong, you lose a point, and so on. Some questions are ridiculous: one asked about the floorplan of a random church in the middle of some village in the Pyrenees that no one has ever heard of. I think out of the 400 people that took the exam, 100 or so passed.
The licence basically gives me privileges that other tourist guides don’t have, for example access and permission to give tours in some of the major attractions in the city. I also get into these places for free and without queuing.
My worst job ever was the equivalent of a ‘yellow coat’ at a hotel in Salou, which I did before university. It was pretty demoralising. We were left to do everything from choreographing the Macarena for the kids, to getting people to sing karaoke; we even had to draw the food on the menus—the whole experience was quite bizarre.
My favourite type of people on my tours are the Americans. They’re always very enthusiastic, and the wealth of history in Barcelona is just fascinating for them. I think the remains of the Temple de Agusto in Carrer de Paradís is probably what the majority of people find most impressive on my tours. The age of the columns is incomprehensible for some people.
If I could be a tour guide in any other city, it would have to be Sheffield. The people are extremely friendly and the area has a lot of industrial history. I may have chosen to live in Spain, but my roots are in Sheffield, and I still love that place.